Self Improvement

River Cleanup

Why has become the big question. Of the W’s and H, Simon Sinek and others have lead us to understand our ‘why’ ahead of any other question. This is a laudable approach, as having an approach is better than winging it (maybe), but may act as a stalling tactic. It can also lead to perfection bias. (If it doesn’t meet the why test completely, then it shouldn’t be done.) The way I use why isn’t as a genesis test but as an omega confirmation.
For me, when I know the what, where, how and when I can test it against why. Why doesn’t generate the action it serves to align it and confirm it through the strategic positioning.
If I see litter alongside the pathway, I can think “that is terrible, someone should pick it up”. Who should that be? – Me? Does taking responsibility for helping solve what I encounter fit with my values? Yes – so the who is me. What should I do? If I pick up the trash and hide it so no one can see it, does that conform with my value of doing the best that I can? No – so I need to do something else. If I pick up the garbage and carry it a couple of blocks to a receptacle, would that serve my purpose? Yes -ok, that’s what I will do. I will come back at the end of the week and remove that piece of rubbish. No – that doesn’t fit with my belief that action always is better than delaying. Do it now.
OK, I will charge into the bushes and grab up the mess. Even though that meets my action bias, it contradicts my value of safety so I need to consider some of the possible hazards and plan to act in a safe manner.
So I pick up the trash, right now, in a safe manner and carry it to a nearby trash can. Who, what, how, where, when all confirmed by my why.

Thanks to everyone in Calgary who is doing that exact thing this morning during the Annual River Cleanup. You and your efforts are appreciated. Be safe, be well.

river cleanup

Thanks For making today remarkable,

B

fiction · Teamwork

Together

Once there was a land where the great rivers flowed from the mountains onto rolling hills and across fertile plains. Blue skies, red sunsets, amazing vistas and abundant wildlife abounded. Freedom loving, hardworking people came and for a hundred years and they worked together and built upon the land. The tilled and seeded, raised livestock and built cities and more freedom loving hardworking people came to join them. They mined, felled, drilled and dug the bountiful natural resources and built a strong caring community. A community where cowboys cared for children and city dwellers supported farmers. A community where each person accepted responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbours grew. If a barn was razed, it was rebuilt. If a road was impassable, it was cleared. If someone was troubled, they were lifted up. If a barrier was identified, it was overcome – together.

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There was a bounty shared by all who cared to join the inhabitants of the land. The blessings of opportunity, promise and hope teemed in a measure equal to the material blessings that were created. Hope was born out of industriousness and inclusion. As hope flourished, unimagined opportunities manifested themselves and unexpected forms of providence appeared.

Neighbours didn’t always agree but they lived together with honour and respect. They debated passionately but held space for the opinions of others.

A man came into the land and saw all that was good and he was jealous. Envy and despair grew in him and he set out to undermine and destroy what the people had built.

Saying to one here “you deserve more” another there “ why work so hard” and another “ that isn’t your job” At first his prodding was ignored and the people kept living together in community but the man’s voice was joined by many others with the power of print, radio, and TV. Their message began to take root. “Why worry about your neighbour. Was he there for you?” “Leave that for the next guy to do. You have done your share already”. “Let’s hire someone to do our work and we can relax in the sun”.

After a few dozen years or so, the passion and purpose that built the land was forgotten and the language of self-reliance and responsibility was erased and replaced by delegates and servants hired to look after every need. The sky darkened and neighbours built fences of fear. Trust evaporated and was replaced by rules of entitlement. People still came seeking liberty but they didn’t find freedom and opportunity and the sweat of their brow or the power of their skills wasn’t appreciated. A community turned into a group of individuals who happened to live in the same place. The man and his ilk said ” Our economy is strong”, ” we have too many freeloaders”, ” we need to protect ourselves”, ” we can’t let more people come here”.

Soon neighbour threatened neighbour. Disagreements were handled by the court. Prisons were built and filled and more prisons were needed. Debate became vitriolic rhetoric full of untruths and logical fallacies. Distrust turned to disgust and then to hatred. Hope evaporated and opportunities disappeared. People stopped coming and started to leave. The man and his bloc were satisfied that their jelousy had poisoned the community and they packed their carpetbags and moved on to infect another place with their economic arguments, their prejudice, and their fear.

This story is written by someone who observed the shift – a child born in the midst of abundance and caring who now nearly 30 years old, sees scarcity and greed. Her great wish is for a return to ‘the good-old-days’ but realizes that fear has its foothold and is gaining strength. It would take leadership, commitment and comp[assion to restart the journey towards hope. She can’t do it alone but she can do her part with a challenge; “I leave you this story, how it continues is up to you ..”

Uncategorized

The Power of a Myth

Mythology exists in all aspects of our life. We believe we are a country of intelligent, entrepreneurial, caring, radical individualists who come together to share our resources and skills and make the world a better place. It likely doesn’t matter where you live, The myth of people and place is pretty powerful. And there is some truth in every myth.
We listen to our Genesis stories; as people, cities, companies and celebrate them by rewriting them to fit our current expectations, mores, attitudes and regrets. The adaptability and flexibility of our stories reflects that we understand that they may never have happened but are definitely true.

My myths keep me safe, keep me calm, help me stay rooted and inspire me. I have absorbed some from my kin and their strange Scottish Scandinavian practices and history. I was taught some from my grandmother and mother that form the basis for my morality and responsibility. I have crafted a few myths myself so I am able to continue doing what I do and to justify my actions in the face of resistance. As the narratives become embedded they earn mythology status, for a time. They are relative to an audience that is predisposed to the lesson. Christians lean towards and love Christian narratives although most zealots would be uncomfortable with the myth reference since they see the stories as complete and inerrant.

There are myths about the glories of capitalism that supporters love and myths that deride and denigrate capitalism that detractors love. Myth – Under capitalism, anyone who works hard can succeed. Myth – Under capitalism only those with a silver spoon get to eat from the golden dish. Sometimes the myth is accepted by both perspectives but for completely different reasons. Myth – We are all in the same boat.

I was raised with a protestant work ethic with tinges of puritan morals so shaking those off and seeing the world with more joy, hope and optimism was a long process and there are days that the baggage rears its head as a defense mechanism against an idea, a party, a person who I disagree with. When I am struggling to understand I can twist and turn my personal narratives with all kinds of logical fallacies. I see injustice when none exists, I hear slander in feedback, I taste opposition in diversity but on the days that I trust and hope (another area of mythology) I grow in all those circumstances.

Myth, as a social construct, is most often destructive as we are seeing in a current election campaign. The myths of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, money creates sides and factions. And when you choose a team or are picked for a team loyalty overwhelms our senses. I have found myself accepting and then defending something that didn’t sit right because it was part of the team’s narrative. Political parties and religious factions have notorious influence on the common sense and common decency of adherents. When the narrative creates a them and us, it is time to deconstruct it and hold it up to the brightest light because it is likely in service of an agenda that is self serving and selfish.

I love myths, ancient and modern. Like the heroes of ancient myths, modern superheroes have extraordinary powers. The most famous superhero is Superman, created by American cartoonists Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster in 1938. In comics and on radio, television, and movie screens, he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way,” using his powers of flight and incredible strength, powers he possesses because he is from another planet. Like most modern superheroes, Superman keeps his identity a secret and pretends to be an ordinary man. Such myths suggest that anyone can have unsuspected potential for heroism.

Make Today Remarkable, because you believe the myth that you are,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Are You Listening?

I need an audience. Without readers, my words fall on deaf ears- no matter how clever, important or irrelevant they seem to be. But do I need to earn the right to speak my truth into the world? Do I need a plan to cultivate listeners? Should I be writing less but better? More and more spontaneous?
When I began I was just writing for me. It was my process and it cleared my head and brought clarity to what I was thinking. Somewhere around post 125 I began to think about you, the reader, and what you were thinking. By number 500, I was focusing on appealing to a specific model reader (who I imagined was out there waiting for my next post). After 600 on makeityourproblem.com and a nearly daily shipping of content to other blogs and forums I realized that my ideas were being censored by an imaginary prospective subscriber. I was tempering my language and censoring ideas that were either too main street or too out of the park. Do all creatives begin to create what they imagine the world, their world, wants?

My mantra that remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others when they embrace their personal responsibility rather and allow society to absolve them is the genesis of my musings and prose. I seem to have forgotten the motivation and mission. I want to significantly influence thousands of people in their journeys to living a ‘big life’. Are you influenced by these posts? Do you feel that you are living a bigger life, leaning towards being remarkable? Do you remember any of the past 600 posts or the calls to action in about half of them? Would you recall and act if the message was more compelling? Would a change of medium (video, podcast, animation) make a difference? What if the message was being created and delivered by someone else? would a different style be compelling? If this was always satirical would it be impactful?

This year there have been about 25,000 viewers to makeityourproblem.com. I don’t know if that can be considered significant. I sure don’t know if any or all found a gem or a germ they could take away. Maybe the numbers are to small and in order to influence thousands, I need to reach hundreds of thousands. Would you react differently if you knew that 100,000 other folks were ingesting and digesting the same content?

I am taking a chance on a Saturday to write about my secret hopes for this space and for the decisions that I make in my community. Honestly I am apprehensive being so vulnerable and insecure and afraid of rejection. There is a small part of me that hopes no one is listening and another part that is excited that there may be some of you who will reach out a provide honest feedback so I can improve.

Maybe the seasons are changing and as with all things this one has passed.

Cheers and Three Cheers,

B

Self Improvement

In the Game

Sitting on the sidelines or on your hands or with your hand over your mouth is the only real failure in life. Choosing not to join in, contribute or speak up is the ruination of a purposeful and remarkable life. Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others.Every moment in every day, you have the opportunity to choose remarkable.

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So what drags us to the grandstand or the couch rather than playing the game? There are external forces at play. The single perfect model of reality TV says ” Go Home, You are Cut, You are Voted Off, You are Not Good Enough.” As ridiculous as it seems having 4 judges, or chefs, or pseudo celebrities deciding what talent or personality is, it is even crazier that this craze is still growing. Millions tune in every week to live vicariously through the small lives of characters on a screen being rated and chastised by people whose opinion should have very little value. But the popularity of watching network spectacles rather than living life and the premise that someone you don’t know or care about should have a meaningful opinion about you, creates a barrier to us raising our hand and saying ” put me in coach”. If there isn’t a coach or even if there is, get off the bench and join in. Have fun doing it and the more you try, the more proficient you will become (if that is important to you).

There are numerous times every day that an opportunity arises for you to share the load or take the lead. That’s when you drag your mitts our from under your butt and say ” I can do that”, and then you go about getting it done. Whether it is something smaller like writing a note, making a call, checking out some sources or something bigger like organizing the team, collecting relevant data or guiding a decision making process – you are capable and if your are willing and ready then the opportunity will come your way.
The key to seeking permission is completing the assignment to the very best of your abilities and following up to see if there is anything that you missed or anything else arising from your efforts. Taking the extra step rather than the bare minimum sets you apart but more importantly it gives you confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes the immediate, relevant and concrete action that is needed is for you to speak up and support, modify or challenge an idea or premise. Even if your thoughts aren’t fully formed, they can contribute to the active iteration and help generate a new pathway for discussion. Speak up to add value to the debate, discussion or conversation rather than to win the day. Ask probing questions in order to understand not defeat or belittle. So often I observe passive/aggressive behavior in gatherings that derails the flow and stifles the open dialogue. When someone asks a clarifying question or asks someone to “say more”, it leads to more diverse and ranging possibilities.

Success lies in the doing of one or all; getting in the game, taking your turn and speaking up. Right or wrong, brilliant or naive, true or imagined isn’t relevant. Playing with others with respect and interest leads to respect and interest being the norm and it will gradually be reciprocated. It won’t be immediately accepted because we have so many cannibalistic group encounters that leave us exhausted and without fresh fruit.
But I/we can start the change today. If you spend more than a couple of hours in the company of others, there will be dozens of chances to shift tone by simply becoming an active participant or agreeing to use your skills to make sure something gets done. Either or both will reduce any tension in the group and leave others with a sense of relief and maybe a bit surprised.

Take time today to measure the quality of your interactions. Am I asking to hear more or asking to trap her? Did I want to understand better or embarrass him? What did I learn? How will that change something for me/us? Am I better for having spoken up? Are others better? Will this move the discussion closer or farther awy from some resolution?

We all have choices and all our choices create consequences so if we are mindful of what we choose we can be confident that the results will carry that same care and respect.

Make Today Remarkable with remarkable choices,
B

Uncategorized

Accidents

Accidents happen. Do they? The idea that something happens without being a correlation to or cause from something seems shortsighted. While incidents occur without that being the intention it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have predicted, shouldn’t have expected or can recognize in hindsight. When two vehicles collide at an intersection, it is seldom from the intention of one or both of the drivers. It may be because either or both were inattentive or distracted. They didn’t notice or react to road conditions, mechanical safety, or their surroundings. Possibly rules of the road were ignored, disregarded or not applied. As a consequence, the two vehicles, their drivers and any passengers attempted to occupy the same space at the same time and sustained damage to either or both and possibly injury to the passengers and drivers.

In the longer view, the drivers’ mood, health, experience were contributing factors to the crash. An driver in his eighties is moving down a lane in a parking lot when another operator is backing out of a stall. Driver two is in reverse and doesn’t check his surroundings thoroughly before and during the maneuver. The rear of his car contacts the first vehicle on the driver’s side front fender. The ’cause’ seems obvious and the law seems to always assign fault to the car that is backing up. But if the driver of car one was paying closer attention and had quicker reaction times the collision may have been avoided by reducing speed, stopping or steering out of harm’s way. While the ’cause ‘ of the incident can be assigned there are most often numerous associated and mitigating circumstances and conditions.

If I take an action that creates unexpected consequences (I have often), are the consequences really unexpected or did I jump to a conclusion (probably) or not consider enough variables (likely). Was my level of concern not significant? was I feeling upset, sad, confused because of something else that occurred minutes, hours or days before? Am I to be absolved because I didn’t know something I said would hurt your feelings or cause you pain? Am I still involved if I should have known even if I claim that it wasn’t my intention? If I am insensitive and your hyper sensitive one day and I say something or act ‘teasingly’ and you take offense, am I responsible? Even if the same event happened a week ago and you laughed?

My contention isn’t that the vehicles crashed or I caused someone pain intentionally (although that is possible and does happen) but that that there is a complicity that is wide enough to be shared. Every action or inaction, every word or moment of silence, every verb or noun chosen has consequences. I can’t or maybe we can’t wrestle all of the hundreds of implications but that doesn’t let me off the hook. When I am face with an opportunity, I need to consider some of the possible ramifications. How will this decision impact others? Am I reasonably convinced that what I am going to say is necessary, true and helpful? Do I remember shoulder checking before changing lanes or should I check again? Was I concentrating on something else or just not focusing when I stumbled and fell while running?

For me, this isn’t about blame. This isn’t about a legal position or a moral imperative. For me, it is about recognizing that in our very big world our small actions have consequences and ripples of consequences that flow away from the moment. I get to choose to smile or frown, to be cheerful or gloomy, to encourage or deride. Even when it seems inconsequential, my choice can leave someone else better or worse. If better, how does that flow throughout the day to other incidents and people? If someone flips me the bird because I cut them off (my bad) and I pull an ‘if only’. ” If only you had let me in when I turned on my signal” is my day better or worse. Rather if I think and acknowledge that I should have planned better, waited my turn, and/or signaled my intention better could the moment have transpired differently? What about the next interaction? The next time someone wants to merge?

As in most of the stuff I consider, it is easy to say what is the right thing to do but harder toi actually do it with consistency and maybe some courtesy. If I begin anew today, maybe I will get better and be better and make my world better.

B

Uncategorized

Balancing the Books

Where I live, we just had the government present a budget with a $10Biliion deficit and a forecast that we won’t be back to balancing the accounts until 2024. I have been thinking about the ramifications and reasoning of the document (runs more than 300 pages) and considering the absurdity of trying to reconcile dollar$ and meaning every 12 months.

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My 60+ years have been a roller coaster of credit and debit. I get close to being in a positive position when my actions bring positive value to  myself, my family  and my community. When I am greedy, self-centered and uncaring I draw down on the balance. If I was keeping record of the meaning of my life,in a 12 month window,  there would have been years that were so depressing as to completely depress any hope. If a calendar is the way to balance the books then I am a mess.

There are critics of the deficit the budget proposes but I recall 20 years ago when we were in similar economic crisis, we slashed and burned and literally blew up hospitals so expenses matched revenue.Single moms, people with mental illness or developmental delays, elderly, children and those living in poverty carried the burden of short sighted thinking and single minded focus of dollar$.

I am fortunate that I get to take the long view of my life; measuring by debits and credits and contributions and withdrawls over 80 years. At my last breath, I hope to have had a positive impact in my little corner of the world.

I am therefore looking at the fiscal plan over 30 years 1994-2024 and feeling like this phase is necessary so that we can all benefit from prosperity and all contribute to recovery.

Make Today Remarkable, by taking a long view,

B

Uncategorized

Where Will You Be?

In 8760 hours, where will you be? Will you still be striving to be more than the day before or mired in status quo ? Will you be fitter or fatter? Will you be living in the same place or somewhere new? Will you be getting up with purpose or dragging your butt out of bed? Will you be in a relationship or solo? Will you have learned a new language, to play the guitar or would you have found excuses not to?

In the first hours of the new year we can create a direction to head and a strategic position we want to occupy in 365 days. Inertia begins with doing nothing, just for today and ends with having done nothing. If you are completely happy with all aspects of your life (rare) you can survive and maybe thrive doing nothing. But, if you have grave or even niggling concerns the muck and mire of sameness and stuckness will be over your knees if you do nothing.

Write yourself a note today, dated January 1, 2017.

Dear Me, Today I am in a continually evolving and loving relationship. I am fitter at 62 than you were at 45. My health is excellent because I choose to be aware of my nutrition, my ailments and my tendencies and I make better choices. I am nearly fluent in French. I am excited by the value I get to bring to each day through my vocation and avocation. I live in a world that is safer, cleaner and more caring because I am contributing and I have surrounded myself with people who have the same goals.

What your note includes and how you understand it  is your business. Share it with someone if you want or not but recognize that if you desire a preferred future, it is up to you. Don’t wait for or blame anyone else.

May 2016 be your best year yet,

B

Uncategorized

Move the Bar (part 1)

“If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue.” ~ Bob McInnis

Managing a problem isn’t solving a problem. Helping people live better in their poverty isn’t lifting them out of poverty. Feeding children once a week isn’t the same as ensuring that their parents can feed them. Recycling plastic packaging doesn’t compare with eliminating it.

If we only look for bandaids, the fester wound will continue to seep and become infected. How can we boost the immune system so the cut will heal and never need another bandage? I know one of you is looking for the exception right now and asking “What about … there will always be … we can’t …” I may even agree with you that there are exceptions but we can’t/shouldn’t create action that is structured around the exception. Let’s move forward, learn, adapt and move again.

The make it your problem (MiYP) philosophy and practice expects each of us to do something. The first shift is in our own heads – we are all more capable, resourceful, resilient, passionate and willing than authorities give us credit for. I am, you are, the guy on the bus, the single mom, the senior, …, all of us are more capable. WE all bring assets to the table, to our lives, to our families, to our community. In order to restore we need to restory. Not fabricated, pie in the sky, rainbows and unicorns restorying but rather reframing, reflecting and restarting  new stories. Acknowledge where we are, how we got here, how we are culpable and what we could do differently, today. Get turned in a positive direction. If heading north isn’t bringing results, turn northeast or northwest. It might not take a complete change (maybe it will) but you can soon evaluate the course correction and adapt again.

Understand that you are capable of remarkable things, you have remarkable gifts, and then use your gifts to strengthen others.

Take 10 minutes today, (right now)(only ten minutes) and write 2 gifts that you bring and one action that you can take using either gift to change something that is bothering you. Make it your problem and do it. It can be as simple as saying something, moving something, giving something. You will get better at this. Watch what happens and learn. Take the weekend off (just this weekend) and repeat the 10 minute exercise and action on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday next week. On Thursday ask “Am I slapping on bandaids or healing the wound?” Adjust, try something else, talk with a friend.

Get your head aligned with your remarkable gifts, take action, observe, reflect, adapt.

I would love to hear your stories of remarkable changes and remarkable adaptation.

Uncategorized

Does Collaboration Work?

collaboration

Sometimes.

I have watched individuals, organizations, businesses, corporations, governments come together to tackle issues, improve services, build a better mousetrap, and defeat injustice. In a few cases the partnering of resources and expertise has worked but more often than not impact wasn’t magnified.

Tension, distrust, bureaucracy, memorandums, policies, processes, egos, lethargy, all work against success in collaborative efforts.

Last year I volunteered with a group of five social agencies purportedly trying to solve a critical issue. After four meetings establishing terms of reference, roles and responsibilities, budget and meeting schedules one of the participants said ” This is going to be great. None of us are going to have to work as hard with all of us working together.” I was surprised by the nods around the room and dismayed that they didn’t realize that with all of them pulling on the rope together they could move the ship faster and further if they didn’t reduce their efforts.

Governments come together to reduce CO2, battle terrorism, fight poverty, solve economic problems and it seems way more effort goes into getting along than finding and implementing action. (I know my action bias is showing) National agendas clash, credit is misrepresented, commitments lapse and it appears that the joint effort is more about photo ops and lip service than solutions.

Individuals seem to fair better at working together, formally or informally. Agreement on goals and action needed comes faster and shorter timelines are established. My experience in cocreation with others has been mostly positive because in a group of 2,3, or 4 there isn’t much hiding or dodging. We can get down to business.

I am not saying that businesses, governments and charities shouldn’t work together, I am suggesting that there must be a better way of wrangling the horses and getting them to pull as a team.

Thoughts, suggestions, comments?